Orion’s belt stars are some of the most famous stars in the night sky. They also make up one of the most well-known and easy to find constellations, Orion’s belt.
If you’ve been peeking out the windows at night, or maybe looked up while walking the dog before bedtime or taking out the trash after dinner, perhaps you’ve seen three fairly bright stars in a row. Depending on how early or late you look, you may see them lined up side-by-side above the horizon, or they may be one on top the other when they are setting to the west.
Every major civilization from the Babylonians and Egyptians to the Greeks had different stories for the constellation. In Greece the constellation is known as that of the Greek hero and hunter Orion who was killed by a Scorpion. In ancient Egypt, Orion’s belt was known as the symbol of the God-pharaoh, Osiris.
Orion’s belt consists of three stars. The names of the stars are Mintaka, Alnilam, and Alnitak. Each of the stars’ names come from Arabic. Mintaka means belt, Alnilam means “a belt of pearls”, and Alnitak means the girdle. Scientists believe the three stars formed around the same time from one of the nebulas found in the Orion constellation.
An interesting fact about the Orion’s belt stars is that they are not single stars but systems of stars. Supergiant stars like the Orion’s belt stars tend to have sibling stars that orbit. This is the case for Mintaka and Alnilam. This shows how perception from Earth is not entirely accurate.